Jeff Denholm

Jeff DenholmJeff is an interesting client.  I have never pushed anyone harder, or had anyone with the intense mindset as Jeff, although Carina is a very close second.  Jeff is one of the most focused individuals I have ever trained.

He has had a lot of experience – Merchant Marine, surfer, big mountain skier, deep sea treasure – but while he was working on an Alaskan fishing trawler in the mid-90’s he got his arm caught in a mechanical winch, and it tore his entire right arm off.  He was a promising 27 year old athlete that sustained a life changing event.

Jeff is a long distance paddle boarder which means 10 miles is nothing to him.  He’s done the Molokai crossing, which is from Oahu to Molokai, every July.  It is over 30 miles of laying down or kneeling on a paddle board and going across Hawaiian currents and channels to get from one island to the next.  He does this with a prosthetic on his right arm that has a small fin about the size of the palm of your hand.

Jeff brings in some curious challenges for me because he cannot create so much force on the upper right side of his body.  His body has found ways to compensate – not necessarily to cheat but to find a way to be successful, and that’s really what it’s about.  There’s no such thing as cheating.  It’s how we work around our imbalances and our weaknesses to be the strongest we can be.  That’s what our instincts are always trying to adapt us to be.

So with Jeff, it was quite interesting.  How am I going to get him in the best condition for the Molokai crossing?  He’s also a big wave surfer and wants to get into the big wave surf contests such as Mavericks, Todos Santos in Baja, and Nelscott Reef invitational near Lincoln City, Oregon.  So we’re dealing with a lot of things with Jeff’s training.  One is breath work which he does pretty well on his own.  Other areas are leg strength, core strength – how he feeds the force from his hands to the rest of his body and vice versa when he’s on a board – balance training, endurance training, and finally, how can he be at an extreme high level of fatigue and still maintain some semblance of calm.  That’s key when he’s out in the middle of the ocean with marine life all around him and maybe an escort boat by his side, but still, just him and the elements, and it’s key when he’s big wave surfing.  He won’t think anything about dropping in on a 30 or 50 foot wave, getting annihilated and coming up, taking a pounding and then paddling right back out – provided his board hasn’t snapped in half.

So Jeff has an intensity level that is rare to find in a lot of athletes and it’s been a true challenge for me to find something that keeps him challenged in the gym and also serves the purpose of achieving the ultimate goal of getting him to be the best that he can be.  To accomplish this entails something similar to training Carina in the circuit fashion.  I will set up stations of exercises and expect him to get through in a certain amount of time or with a certain amount of finesse.  Then, just when he’s at his ultimate fatigue state, I’ll throw balance exercises at him and start messing with his mind a little bit.  I’ll start asking him questions while he’s balancing and I’m throwing a ball at him in all different directions, having him not only be calm in the moment, but also be thinking at the same time he’s at the state of ultimate fatigue.

What I learn from Jeff is gratitude.  I learn that no matter how bad a day you’re having, there’s somebody else that has a little bit more challenge in their life.  So if you have problems, they’re really Cadillac problems, especially if you live in this society here where you don’t have to worry about a tiger coming out of the jungle and eating your children, or bullets rifling through your neighborhood if you’re living in a village in Somalia, or the fact that I have all four limbs and they work really well.  When I start looking at Jeff and how he’s developed his life and overcome the obstacles that have presented themselves, it gives me strength and hope and fortitude, and it gives me gratitude.

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